Espionage

The story of the successful mission, code-named Operation Washing, offers a masterclass in determination and daring worthy of Leonidas.

Millennia After Leonidas Made His Last Stand at Thermopylae, a Ragtag Band of Saboteurs Thwarted the Axis Powers in the Same Narrow Pass

A new book chronicles the 16-plus battles that took place in the Greek pass between the ancient era and World War II

Smithsonian's picks for the best history books of 2023 include King: A Life, The Sisterhood and The Wager.

The Ten Best History Books of 2023

Our favorite titles of the year resurrect forgotten histories and illuminate how the United States ended up where it is today

An artist's rendering of what the tunnels could look like by 2027

Secret World War II-Era Tunnels Could Become a London Tourist Attraction

Built as a shelter during the London Blitz, the subterranean network could open as an immersive experience

Morris “Moe” Berg in 1933. Dubbed the “brainiest man in baseball” due to his knack for languages and quick wit, the catcher joined the OSS in 1943.

The Baseball Player-Turned-Spy Who Went Undercover to Assassinate the Nazis' Top Nuclear Scientist

During World War II, the OSS sent Moe Berg to Europe, where he gathered intel on Germany's efforts to build an atomic bomb

Peter J. Ortiz receives the first of the two Navy Crosses he was awarded for extraordinary heroism during World War II.

The American Spy Who Surrendered to the Nazis to Save Civilians

In 1944, Pierre Julien Ortiz parachuted into occupied France, where the Gestapo offered a reward of half a million francs for his capture

Picasso in Place Ravignan in Montmartre in 1904

Why French Authorities Placed a Young Pablo Picasso Under Surveillance

Police suspected the 19-year-old Spanish expatriate of harboring anarchist views

NASA scientists launch a scientific ballloon from the Halley Research Station in Antarctica on Jan. 30, 2014.

High-Altitude Balloons Aren’t Just for Spying. Here’s How Scientists Use Them

Students, scientists and hobbyists are beginning to worry for their research as balloons are increasingly shot down

J. Edgar Hoover (second from left) stands behind Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the president signs a bill in 1934.

How World War II Helped Forge the Modern FBI

Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, J. Edgar Hoover consolidated immense power—and created the beginnings of the surveillance state

The entrance to the CIA Museum in Langley, Virginia

See Inside the Rarely Seen and Newly Reimagined CIA Museum

Off-limits to all but a few in-person visitors, the museum is starting to welcome the public, online at least

Experts were unable to pinpoint a cause of death, but three medical witnesses who testified during an inquest into the Somerton Man case agreed that his passing “was not natural.” 

Have Scholars Finally Identified the Mysterious Somerton Man?

New DNA analysis suggests a body found on a beach in Australia in 1948 belongs to Carl Webb, an electrical engineer from Melbourne

The men of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops created elaborate illusions featuring inflatable tanks, jeeps and artillery.

How the Ghost Army of WWII Used Art to Deceive the Nazis

Unsung for decades, the U.S. Army's 23rd Headquarters Special Troops drew on visual, sonic and radio deception to misdirect the Germans

The 15 freed hostages and their rescuers arrive at San José del Guaviare airport in July 2008.

The Daring Rescue Mission That Freed 15 Hostages Held in the Colombian Jungle for Years

A new exhibition at the International Spy Museum revisits Operación Jaque, a covert 2008 plot led by the Colombian military

As recent archival finds and reappraisals of well-known documents show, Liss forged her own path to freedom—and may have even spied on the British while doing so.

Did an Enslaved Woman Try to Warn the Americans of Benedict Arnold's Treason?

New research sheds light on Liss, who was enslaved by the family of a Culper Spy Ring leader and had ties to British spymaster John André

Kate Warne was the Pinkerton National Detective Agency's first woman operative. She died in 1868 at age 34 or 35.

How Kate Warne, America's First Woman Detective, Foiled a Plot to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln

In February 1861, the Pinkerton agent, posing as the disguised president-elect's sister and caregiver, safely escorted him to Baltimore

Lai Tek's espionage had geopolitical implications across Southeast Asia.

The Vietnamese Secret Agent Who Spied for Three Different Countries

Known by the alias Lai Tek, the enigmatic communist swore allegiance first to France, then Britain and finally Japan

The only reference to 355 appears in an August 15, 1779, letter: “I intend to visit 727 [Culper code for New York] before long and think by the assistance of a 355 [lady in the code] of my acquaintance, shall be able to outwit them all.”

The Myth of Agent 355, the Woman Spy Who Supposedly Helped Win the Revolutionary War

A single reference in the historical record has spawned an array of adaptations, most of which overstate the anonymous figure's role in the Culper Spy Ring

Sybil Ludington has been called the "female Paul Revere."

Did the Midnight Ride of Sibyl Ludington Ever Happen?

What to make of the alluring legend of the New York teen who warned that the Redcoats were coming

Josephine Baker's remains will be reinterred at Paris' Panthéon on November 30.

Performer Josephine Baker to Be First Black Woman Buried at Paris' Panthéon

The talented entertainer, activist and spy will be the fifth woman accorded one of France's highest honors

André Michaux, a French botanist, was an ambitious explorer whose legacy has largely been forgotten.

The Forgotten French Scientist Who Courted Thomas Jefferson—and Got Pulled Into Scandal

A decade before Lewis and Clark, André Michaux wanted to explore the American continent. Spying for France gave him that chance

This month's book picks include African Europeans, X Troop and Chasing the Thrill.

African Europeans, Jewish Commandos of WWII and Other New Books to Read

These May releases elevate overlooked stories and offer insights on oft-discussed topics

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